13 Sep John Lyons | The Woven Garden
Originally from Galway in lush, rainy Ireland, John Lyons found himself transplanted to California, creating edible landscapes and organic vegetable gardens.
In a nutshell, what do you do and what inspired you to do it?
I design and install edible landscapes and California Native gardens. My inspiration comes from my childhood because I grew up on a farm and growing your own food was a way of life. Then when I came to CA in 1997 I discovered native plants and loved their aesthetic as well as seeing the need to have drought tolerant and sustainable landscapes.
After you design and set it up, can you help me maintain my garden too?
Yes we also do follow on maintenance. Some clients are present each week to work along side me and they get the added benefit of a garden class!
What about native plants? I want to conserve water but don’t know what to plant.
Native plants are extremely drought tolerant, look beautiful and, as importantly, attract all manner of beneficial insects to your garden. In general the growing season is November to March when the weather is cooler. There are wonderful local resources such as The Theordore Payne Foundation in Sunland and Matilija Nursery in Moorpark that have a huge array of plant choices. Local cities now give as much $2 per square foot in a rebate if you choose to remove your water guzzling lawn and replace with a native landscape.
How can I involve my kids in the garden and teach them about growing things?
Most children are now getting an initial exposure to gardening in their schools and additional involvement at home is a great idea. Children love their ‘own’ space so creating a special raised box to grow vegetables and having them responsible to take care of it is a great place to start. Growing easy vegetables from seed is another way to get a science discussion going! When they get to harvest and eat the food they have grown, they will be bitten by the gardening bug and you will have helped create in them a life-long interest in gardening.
Do you have any advice on how not to use pesticides?
Simple. Do not use them. Avoid the temptation to use any chemicals in your garden. It upsets the natural ecosystem and only causes long term problems. Allow certain infestations to occur from time to time and Nature’s natural pest control team will show up. If you have a recurring problem use an organic treatment such as neem oil but be aware that even organic sprays can be toxic to beneficial insects. Native plants are a great attractor of beneficial insects and can clean out harmful infestations.
How or where can I learn more about plants and gardens?
There are many places. UCLA has a very good Extension programme and the LA Arboretum, Huntington and Descanso Gardens have a wide array of classes. I teach at these locations from time to time.
Do you build large scale gardens for companies or schools?
Yes. I have done a few large scale projects and created a gardening curriculum at one local school.
What’s your opinion on the organic food scene? Is it a fad?
No. The organic movement is both a necessary reaction to and consequence of the rise in large scale use of chemicals in agricultural practices. Our latest threat is the use of GMO’s. People have begun to realize that monitoring what we eat is vital to our ongoing health as a nation.
When is the best time to plant fruit and vegetables? Is it too late now?
Too late only for summer vegetables. We have a 24/7/365 day growing season in Southern CA. Soon it will be time to start thinking about cool season planting such as all the winter greens, garlic, peas, lettuces and brassicas.
How long does it take to set up a garden, and is it expensive?
Expense is directly related to scale and materials used. Growing food and native plants is relatively simple and straightforward. You do need some key specialist advice with natives because they have special requirements to get them started. A good idea is to think of what you would like long term, create a master plan and break it down into bite sized pieces and create your garden over time if expense is an issue.
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